Monthly Archives: December 2019
As I wrote in my last post, EDF has been particularly problematic. Communication channels exist but don’t work properly: chat failed when I lost the connection, and email seems to reach people who can’t or won’t read it. Neither does their payment appear to work, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
My previous experience as an EDF customer (2005-2013) was problem-free: I paid by direct debit, and the (informational) quarterly bills were admirably well-presented. I don’t recollect ever having to contact them: I guess I must have done when I moved in and out, but it must have been too simple to be memorable.
This time I moved in without knowing the incumbent supplier of my house. I looked it up on the Western Power Distribution website and found it’s EDF. So I went to their website and looked for how to contact them. I found an online chat facility. My chat request was answered reasonably quickly. In a fairly long session I confirmed that EDF was my supplier, and gave my name, the date of my move, and my initial readings. I lost the session when my internet connection dropped, so I just had to hope they’d act on the information I’d given.
They didn’t. Next contact with them was a bill, addressed not to me but to the owner or occupier, with (tiny) errors in the moving in date and wholly unrealistic “estimated” meter readings. The bill is also hopelessly confusing: a period of less than two months is split into no fewer than five different periods, for no reason I can discern.
Evidently my chat had failed to communicate. I looked at their website for other means to communicate, but found none except chat or phone – which is of course altogether worse. So I tried chat again, but instead of going through all the details and risking a repeat of last time, I asked for an email address. My chat assistant told me there isn’t a general one, but gave me his own @edf address. So I wrote to him with my details, which I assumed should be sufficient to get me “on the system”. That included up-to-date meter readings as well as the initial ones.
Next I heard, another bill, again addressed to “owner or occupier”. Email hadn’t worked either. I looked once again for methods of communication, and failing again to find anything like an email address or contact form, I turned to Complaints. Aha, there’s an email address. I email them complaining of the difficulty of contacting them, and append my previous email with my details and meter readings.
This one they half-read. A reply apologised, and said they’d get me on the system:
I am sorry for the inconvenience caused. We have updated the records and created an account on your name with effect from 23 August . Also registered your detail online so you will soon receive an email with “Add password” option. You can access the online account following the instruction on the email in detail. We will also send you a welcome pack soon.
The promised email never arrived. But another bill followed, this time with my name and moving in date. And another, for the period from my vendor’s last reading to my moving in date: I guess the date I should have given was the date I bought the house (which fell between the two), but let’s not complicate things further until I’m on the bloomin’ system!
With a bill in my own name, I guess I could now have set up an account online. But I was still waiting for their promised email about it, and I was p***ed off that they had ignored my meter readings and sent ludicrous “estimates” again. So I fired off another email asking after the followup and readings.
Thank you for your reply.
I have yet to receive the promised email with the “Add password” option. When can I expect it?
I now have a bill in my name, but it is still “estimated”. Given that you can accept my name from the email I sent, why are you ignoring the readings (included once more in the quoted correspondence below)?
The reply to this one is surreal:
I would have been happy to help you with the query. But I would request you to please provide us the query so that we can help you with the information.
My followup repeated the questions as numbered points – and again included all previous correspondence, but got no reply whatsoever. A few days later I got automated email and a letter both telling me payment was overdue. I again fired off email, getting yet more exasperated:
> On 28 Nov 2019, at 10:01, EDF Energy wrote:
> Your bill is now overdue, please pay today.
I know I have a bill.
I have tried to contact you multiple times over the past three months. I have sent you readings, which you have ignored several times.
In your email reply dated November 7th, you promised a followup email which would get me set up online. I have yet to receive that followup.
When I chased that followup on November 19th and again on the 20th, I got no reply beyond the automated “We aim to respond to your email within the next 24 hours.”
To be fair, that one did get a meaningful reply. But I’ve had enough: I need to switch supplier. In retrospect I should have accepted SSE’s offer to supply my new address when I terminated supply at my old address.
But I suspect I won’t be able to switch while I have an outstanding bill, even if I’m still battling to get a correct bill (which of course I’d be happy to pay). I go to try and sign up online, and find they can identify me from my email address alone. Evidently something has got through from all that correspondence, but most readers of this blog won’t need me to point out the security whopper! I read the meters again and entered updated readings, but there’s no facility to enter or correct any historic detail. Nor can I request they issue a corrected bill: I’ll just have to wait and see what happens there.
After another day mulling it over, I decide just to pay their “estimate”. I log in again, select “make a payment” from the menu, and accept the amount of their bill. I then enter my card details, only to find the next problem: it takes me to a “verified by visa” screen which spins for a moment, then tells me it’s timed out. So that’s Schrödinger’s payment: I’ve no idea whether it’s succeeded until I see it (or not) on my card statement. Or until EDF thank or chase me, but I’m not holding my breath for any sense from them!
Today I visited uswitch and fed a bunch of their numbers into a spreadsheet. Looks as if Eon offer the best deal at my address, due to a much lower standing charge than anyone else. Let’s hope I can switch and they prove less of a nightmare!
Is it just me, or is it becoming ever harder to communicate with officialdom? That is, both officialdom as in government services, and private-sector service providers such as utilities?
My house move has thrown up several examples, ranging from the painless to the deeply frustrating (though none so Kafkaesque as Virgin Media). Time to record a few cases.
Good: National Government. The process to get on the electoral register was updated between the 2005 and 2010 elections, and now works well. Registering at my new address was quick and painless – though probably (still) wide open to fraud.
Painful: Local Government. Signing off from Plymouth was painless, but West Devon has got much worse since I was previously here. Specifically, their website is now dysfunctional and won’t work without severely compromising one’s own security. I can sign up, but attempting to log in just dumps me at a third-party site that appears to be an identity service provider – but I have no way of verifying that, nor anything I can do even if I do decide to trust them!
So when they demand Council Tax, I can’t log in to set up payment. And there’s no contact information for council tax: their “contact us” offers a bunch of specific services, but no catch-all to contact them on a matter not listed, like how to pay them! It took two visits to their office in person and a letter written to them on paper to sort that.
Still worse was recycling. My request for the relevant recycling bins was submitted several times online and once in person at their offices, but fell into a black hole. Eventually (on a friend’s suggestion) I wrote to my elected councilors, who told the council jobsworths to do their job, whereupon the boxes were finally – three months from my first request – forthcoming.
Amongst utilities, Southwest Water was relatively painless. My first attempt failed on some website idiocy, but that was when my ‘net connection was down to 2G so it was a cup-of-coffee delay as it insisted on my changing “7” to “07” (or something) in a Date field. Returning a second time when it was back up to 4G, it still exhibited idiocy, but at least worked to the point of letting me notify them of my move and submit meter readings. Best of all, no need to change my existing direct debit just because it’s a different address.
At my previous address I had gas and electricity from SSE. Notifying them of my move was painless, and in retrospect I should have accepted their (automatic) offer to supply the new address. But I assumed I could sort that later.
Looking at the Western Power Distribution website, I found the incumbent supplier for my house is EDF. I was a happy customer of EDF from 2005 to 2013 (i.e. my entire time at the address I lived longer than anywhere else), and expected no problem. But it turned out to be another epic story, and one that merits a separate post that’ll make better reading than this TLDR. Suffice it for to say that today I’ve decided to give up the struggle and pay an incorrect bill, just to draw a line under it and move on with another provider.
One more minor epic was my internet connection. On finding that my 4G connection only half-works from here, I signed up for FTTC with Andrews and Arnold, with a view to a longer-term project of bringing some stuff in-house from the Cloud. Due to various issues, some of them genuinely outside the control of either A&A or Openreach, it was three visits over more than a month, and something of a battle, from when I should have had my connection to when it actually went live. Disappointed with the poor communication from A&A over much of that time.
Finally a good news story. Having blown my money on a house, I no longer have £20k cash to keep in a Santander 123 account. At £5/month charge, it could even end up costing me money with smaller balances! After a bit of online research, I opened a new account with Starling Bank, and after verifying that it worked I instructed them to transfer my Santander account. That ran genuinely smoothly, with not just my money but also payees and references moved automatically. Even Santander were polite about it, with no annoying “Customer Retention” crap when they wrote to confirm the closure.
It occurs to me that my last blog entry re: singing the Creation tomorrow is the third time I’ve complained here of “new translations” of great German works (the previous times being the St John’s Passion and St Matthew’s Passion).
Perhaps I should also offer some brief explanation of what is wrong with them – apart from the obvious spuriousness of the reasons offered for having “new” translations.
- These are not new translations. They are very minor tweaks of the well-known translations choirs have long been performing. They are at the level of the variations one routinely dreams up at idle moments in rehearsal.
- They are less singable than the original translations. The worst (by far) here was the St Johns Passion, but all of them have made things worse.
OK, let’s find some examples from the Creation while I still have the score. Just to show it’s not all bad, let’s start at the beginning with one tweak that is actually a trivial improvement on the original. The very first chorus entry
and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters
and the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters
A trivial change, to a line that comes directly from the King James Bible as well as being a literal translation from the German. Removing one syllable brings it into line with the German, and the calm and tranquillity of Haydn’s music immediately before God’s most famous utterance, יְהִי אוֹר.
Sadly that’s the exception. Let’s turn now to the example our conductor gave in motivating the “new” translation to the choir. The original source for this is Psalm 19:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
The German line is pretty faithful to that:
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes,
und seine Hände Werk zeigt an das Firmament.
The familiar translation takes a little licence to fit the words to the notes – this kind of creativity is of course at the heart of translating lyrics to music:
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
the wonder of his work displays the firmament.
The “new” translation here takes exactly the same licence, but rearranges the words:
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
the firmament displays the wonder of his work.
The justification is that it makes the grammar more everyday, less archaic. As against that, the old translation aligns the prominent words “work” and “firmament” directly with the German, thereby better fitting Haydn’s music. In this instance the differences are so minor I find it hard to say either version is better or worse than the other. What really stretches credulity is to claim it as a different translation – a new piece of work.
Where it really makes things worse is where some gratuitous change makes it altogether less singable. The most egregious examples of this are in the St Johns Passion, but the Creation has a few cases in point. As I write I’m struggling to bring them to mind, but one minor instance I can recollect:
and to th’ethereal vaults resound
on high th’ethereal vault resounds
Neither of these is remotely similar to the german:
und laut ertönt aus ihren Kehlen
(literally “and loudly rings out from their throats” – which would even fit the music!)
But this change introduces ugliness and difficulty. Any phrase ending in “s” can tend to be a hazard for choirs, as the “s” sound can be untidy – it only takes one singer to do a Corporal Jones and it sounds a complete mess. To end a fast phrase in “ds” – still worse “nds” – is positively ugly and rather difficult even in the most accurate and disciplined performance.
This is not the worst example: there are one or two so bad we are reverting to the “old” words. It’s just one that came to mind as I write.
As I said the first time I encountered one of these “new” translations (the St Johns Passion): I can only conclude that the sole reason for the “new” translation is to assert copyright on a score that would otherwise soon be out of it.
I wonder what would happen if anyone were to challenge this copyright in court? I hope it gets struck down for the gross abuse that it is!
 To be honest, neither translation is a satisfactory fit to the music here. There’s a longer note in the middle to which both the syllable dis[plays] (original translation) or the (new translation) are very poor fits. Beckmesser rules! A potential solution to this is to make every occurrence a dotted rhythm, extending the preceding word – this works best with the old translation where it’s “work” being extended. But that impoverishes the music – Haydn gives us instances of both variants for a bit of variety.
 OK, in context it makes a little more sense: it’s praise of God that rings out or resounds. There’s nothing in the German that could translate to vaults, singular or plural, ethereal or otherwise.